Christian Oppor was an intriguing left-handed pitcher out of the Wisconsin prep ranks last season. His fastball touched 96 mph during his senior year, and scouts raved about his athleticism, fastball and overall potential.
Oppor was nearly the first Wisconsin prep pitcher drafted and signed since 2009. Due to his limited track record and his raw skill set on the mound, Oppor didn’t get selected as high as he anticipated. He opted to attend Gulf Coast (Fla.) State instead of signing with the Oakland Athletics after they drafted him in the 11th round of the MLB draft last year.
Due to a new rule, Oppor is a draft-and-follow player, meaning the Athletics can sign him before this year’s draft. The Athletics are the only team who can communicate with Oppor until July 2. Any bonus amount over $225,000 will count against the Athletics’ bonus pool for this year.
Oppor should command more than $225,000. If the Athletics don’t agree to terms with Oppor on a contract, he will be draft-eligible again this year. Scouts project the junior college freshman as a potential top-five-round pick in July’s draft.
“It is a lot easier because it was super hectic going through it the first time,” Oppor said. “When I went through it the first time, I had just gotten an advisor just in time before everything started to blow up. He took a lot of the phone calls and helped me out. I have matured, and it’ll be a lot easier talking to scouts now.”
After graduating from Columbus (Wis.) High School, Oppor went the junior college route in hopes of pitching right away. The decision has worked out well, as Oppor has pitched in 48 2/3 innings in 12 games.
Oppor has posted a 6.29 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 32 walks allowed. He is averaging 13.68 strikeouts per nine innings. Overall, Oppor has pitched well, minus an appearances where he allowed seven earned runs and another outing where he surrendered nine earned runs. The two starts inflated his ERA.
Oppor is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound left-hander who throws a fastball, slider and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot. He is extremely athletic and deploys a low-effort delivery.
Oppor’s fastball is his best pitch. It sits in the mid-90s and has touched 100 mph with sinking action. He does a good job of throwing his fastball for strikes, as it generates swings and misses and weak contact.
Besides his fastball, Oppor is working on refining and gaining more feel for his secondary pitches. They both flash potential, with his slider showing the ability to keep hitters off-balanced and generate swings and misses.
“My biggest strength is my ability to flush the pitch,” Oppor said. “Say a guy hits a triple off of me or something like that, being able to flush it and then go after the next guy. The older you get, the better hitters you are going to face. You just have to learn from it and get over it and try to get back after it.”
Oppor has worked on his pitch mix and mentality at the college level. He has made strides in those areas and hopes to continue to show growth with the command of his secondary pitches during the remaining part of his freshman season.
“I want to locate at least two pitches,” Oppor said. “I can command them well, but I want to be able to pick the side of the plate and hit that spot. I’ve struggled with my secondary pitches. My command is one of the biggest things I want to work and improve on the rest of the year.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.